Athletics: Allen Paves Path to Professional Ranks

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It’s often said that college is the time you learn the most about yourself as an individual, but upon his arrival as an under-the-radar recruit from Chaminade High School in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2012, former Florida Tech catcher Austin Allen never imagined his name would go down as one of the greatest in program history.

Before any sort of stardom, Allen enrolled as a freshman after transitioning from Kirkwood, Missouri, with plenty of apprehension in hope of just making an early impression on both his coaches and teammates.

“I was nervous,” Allen recalled. “I just wanted to be able to help the team in any way possible. Whatever Merc (Matt Mercurio) and Coach B (Greg Berkemeier) wanted me to do, I was going to do it. I knew that it was going to be a challenge from the get-go, but going back to the whole recruiting process, I knew I made the right choice coming to Florida Tech. Looking back, I wouldn’t change that for anything. It made me the baseball player and the person I am off the field today.”

The left-handed hitting catcher ended up earning his way into the lineup, making 39 starts as a freshman, but admittedly had plenty to improve on—and improve he did.

Fast-forward three years and Allen was popping up on nearly every major league team’s radar. Not shy of the attention he received from scouts, Allen belted 11 home runs this past season, tying his previous totals from his freshman and sophomore campaigns combined. In addition, the 6-foot-4 standout secured the Sunshine State Conference batting title with a .421 average and broke the school record for doubles with 25.

A culmination of hard work and extraordinary dedication to the game, Allen’s life changed on June 9 when the San Diego Padres selected him in the fourth round, No. 117 overall, in the MLB Draft. The pick not only opened the door to the professional ranks, but made him the highest player drafted in Panther history. Previously, Jonathan Baksh was the program’s highest draft choice having been selected in the seventh round by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2006 draft. World Series Champion Tim Wakefield was an eighth round pick in the 1988 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I get chills over it, it’s crazy,” Allen said of being mentioned in the same sentence with both Baksh and Wakefield. “Coming in, you know who those guys are right away just from stories. Those guys are legends around here. I always thought ‘Man, I want to be one of those guys that Coach B and Merc and other guys like Nick Brennan ’08 always talked about.’ Not just as a good baseball player, either, but also a good person that always did the right thing for the team and gave it his all every single day.”

Now playing for the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Class A Short-Season Affiliate of the Padres, Allen is keen to notice that the level of competition has ramped up across the board, but still reverts back to what he learned in his playing days in Crimson and Gray for guidance.

“To have confidence in everything I’m doing,” Allen mentioned about what he’s taken with him out west. “It was an adjustment going from high school to Florida Tech, both in the classroom and on the baseball field, and it’s been an adjustment going from Florida Tech to the San Diego Padres organization. Confidence is one thing I hope to instill in other people and also maintain myself. It’s important to believe in yourself. Even when someone says you can’t do it, prove them wrong.”

Allen insists he intends on returning to Melbourne and ultimately finishing his degree in business administration, but while he’s out chasing his dream, don’t expect Panther fans to forget about him anytime soon.

“I want to be remembered as a competitor,” he said. “I went out there every single day trying beat somebody, trying to come out on top. It was all about getting that win for the team and Florida Tech.”

Just a kid from a suburb outside St. Louis, Allen has built a bond that can never be broken and now leaves behind a legacy that’ll forever make Florida Tech his second home.

—Jameson Carter

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